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Sample Interview Transcript: Is This What You're Looking For?

The following is the transcript of a recent interview with Steven Van Yoder, author of the book Get Slightly Famous.

Q: Steven, tell us a little bit about yourself and the book.

A: GSF was the result of years of insights I gained as a working journalist for most of the last decade. During this time, I spent a lot of time writing about business subjects, everything from marketing to public relations, e-commerce. And in each of these articles, I would seek out experts in the business community as part of my normal journalistic research.

After writing stories about almost every industry under the sun, I saw a pattern develop. Time and time again, without fail, I uncovered a handful of industry leaders that stood out as centers of influence in their industries. Their names popped up all over the Internet. They were the ones who gave talks, wrote reports, and were constantly getting quoted in the media. And these were the people I interviewed for my articles.

Q: So, these were the people you uncovered in your due diligence as a journalist. What exactly was it that they were doing to gain this visibility?

A: I realized that they were pursuing a business strategy that made them "slightly" famous. They weren't household names, but they were well known in their industries, and that was all that mattered. And not only were the media clammoring after them, but they were obviously attracting more business than their lesser known competitors.

This insight was the inspiration for my company, Get the Word Out Communications, which helps businesses become mini-celebrities in their fields.

Q: So your new book, Get Slightly Famous, explains how to do that?

A: Get Slightly Famous is a comprehensive resource for any small business or entrepreneur who wants to learn the most effective way to grow a business in today's new economy. Its premise is that the best clients and customers are those who seek you out because they have already heard of you. You do this by becoming a center of influence within your industry and being a trusted resource to your target market.

Q: What do you feel are the biggest challenges facing a small business in this 'new economy'?

A: This is a time when small businesses are facing increased competition. They are finding it harder to get noticed as the world has gotten "noisier." On top of this is that traditional marketing methods like advertising, direct mail, cold calling -- or just sitting around and waiting for the phone to ring -- just don't work anymore. GSF addresses the new challenges of small business marketing.

Q: There have been literally hundreds of books written on this subject. How does yours differ?

A: What makes my book different than many marketing books is that it was written using the "journalistic method." In other words, I thoroughly tested my theories by researching every leading marketing idea out there. I also interviewed over 135 marketing experts and business owners. The book has scores of case studies by "slightly" famous entrepreneurs who show how they market themselves. The result is an inspirational, user-friendly book based on real-world success stories, not theory.

Q: So what's the "secret sauce" to becoming slightly famous?

A: As I tell my clients, marketing is a "process," not an "event." It's a process of doing a lot of little things consistently instead of looking for instant gratification or a marketing home run. In other words, you have to be willing to put in some work and you have to market yourself on an ongoing basis. Slightly famous entrepreneurs take their marketing and promotional efforts as seriously as paying their rent.

That said, the real secret is to realize that we live in an age of specialization. You can't be a one-size-fits-all business anymore. People seek out businesses that understand them, and the more you specialize, the more focused your business is to the direct needs of a core group of people and to "speaking their language." By making their niche your very own "super niche," it's members become fanatically loyal customers.

Q: And how do you define a super-niche?

A: I see time and time again that clients are going after a broad market, like deep sea fishing vessels casting this huge net over the ocean They do so many things to capture a certain percentage of a particular market. What I have found works is finding your unique niche, actually, finding a SUPER-NICHE.

Super-niching is about going deep, rather than wide. So, instead of going for 5% of a 75% market share, the most successful businesses go after 75% of a 5% market share. Your goal is to become the lord of a small, profitable domain of your choosing. Within that domain, you will attract more customers and clients, including those you want most.

Q: It seems that going after a 5% market share would reduce your customer base, but you're saying it will grow a business. Can you explain how this works?

A: A super niche is when you can strategically target a particular market segment, get to know it's inhabitants inside and out, and become the business of choice within your industry to members of that niche. Then, you specialize your products and services to the unmet needs of the most qualified prospects in your super niche. By developing inside knowledge of this group, and giving them exactly what they want, you will inspire the loyalty that people give those who understand them.

Large companies aspire to total market domination. Small businesses with a "slightly famous" strategy flourish by establishing themselves within a carefully selected segment of a market; they target a market niche that they can realistically hope to dominate. For instance if you're a financial planner, specialize in a particular age group. Be the expert for young families just beginning to build their wealth, or be an expert to seniors trying to preserve and maximize their nest egg.

To focus on one particular demographic means you have carved out a super-niche. Why would a senior call me if he thinks you may specialize in younger clients, and why would a young family man call you if he thinks you only deal with seniors? I guarantee that the most successful financial planner will have made choices in his specialty as a financial consultant.

Q: Can you give us an example of this from the book?

A: One entrepreneur focused her credit and consumer advocacy on professional mortgage brokers versus the general population. She's now speaking to national mortgage conventions and has all the business she can handle.

A restaurant industry veteran went from being just another restaurant supplier to the premier provider of environmentally-friendly restaurant equipment. All of these people in my book found their particular super-niche.

Q: Now that I've heard the examples I can see where this makes sense. What other marketing principles are touted in Get Slightly Famous?

A: As I said earlier, GSF is a comprehensive system. I spend a good amount of time talking about media strategies you can use to gain visibility, such as getting interviewed in magazines and newspapers, or writing articles and columns for targeted publications that reach your target market. I also discuss the essentials of effective networking, developing a slightly famous web site, forging strategic partnerships with other businesses and developing ancillary information products to boost your income.

Q: What if you're just starting out and you're working with a limited budget and few technical resources?

A: What everything in the book has in common is that it doesn't cost a lot of money to implement. This is about building a solid foundation for your business, and then connecting with others to get the word out. This is not a book based on hype, or fancy brochures or slick ads. It's a modern take on the good-old fashioned virtue of understanding your customer and doing well by doing good work.

Q: Small business is clearly the driving force in the recovery of our post-dotcom economy, but statistics still show that 95% of all small businesses fail in the first year. What should new entrepreneurs be aware of?

A: I hear over and over the statistics that most businesses fail in their first year. I think most of them failed to clearly focus their businesses to address the needs of a distinct group of people. Or they fell into the anonymity trap, and no matter how good their products and services, people just didn't know they existed. You've got to have absolute clarity on exactly who you're going to approach, be the only business that particular customer would even think of calling for your product or service, and then make sure this special group hears your message loud and clear.

Q: What if you have an established business and find your leads and customers drying up?

A: I hate to use the popular term "reinvent," but that's exactly what a business needs to do if they find themselves at this juncture.

Dr. Robert E. Balon enjoyed a comfortable niche for years performing market research for the broadcast radio stations. Then there came the day when he had to recognize that all his expertise couldn't reverse the fact that radio markets were consolidating, and the demand by radio stations for that expertise would be sharply diminished.

"We thought, okay, our business is going to drop by 60 percent in the next two years. Where do we go from here?"

Balon contacted a local Texas restaurant association, and pitched the idea of a column on market research for their newsletter. After that, he organized a trend-analysis conference targeted to the central Texas food and hospitality industry. The conference helped the Benchmark Company re-focus its target market, and become established as a market research firm that works with the Texas restaurant industry.

Q: What are some of the wildest publicity stunts in your book?

A: Cincinnati-based tax specialist Ed Lyon is commonly asked what he does for a living. But rather than reply, "I do taxes," he says, "I'm the funniest tax guy in America." It's an immediate attention-getter that has helped Lyon get noticed, and remembered, in his competitive field.

Lyon came into his moniker after compiling top ten lists of humorous tax deductions to promote his book, The 60-Minute Tax Planner. His efforts resulted in an appearance on The Roseanne Show in April 1999, where the television hostess dubbed him "the funniest tax guy in America." This led to appearances on CNN, CNBC, MSNBC and Fox News Network.

The second is Dave's Insanity Hot Sauce. Dave Hirschkop become a living legend in the world of hot sauce through his outrageous marketing strategies. For one, he wears a straitjacket at trade shows while standing before a simulated insane asylum to promote his popular line of "Insanity" hot sauces. He became slightly famous by making the hottest sauce possible, even hotter than people really liked! Instead of promising pleasure, he promised pain, even danger. When Dave introduced his Insanity Sauce at the National Fiery Foods Show in New Mexico, he made attendees sign a release form before tasting from a bottle that came in a coffin-like box wrapped with yellow police tape.

His best, if unintended, publicity coup happened when a show promoter had a minor respiratory problem after tasting his sauce, and banned him from the show. This got media attention and got a buzz going around his products. Now, he steps to the front of the crowded hot sauce category, has fiercely loyal customers and gets great ongoing media exposure.

Q: What are three things all of our listeners should keep in mind to get slightly famous?

A: Don't try to be all things to all people, choose a specific market and stick with it.

Once you've identified this market, make sure your market hears about you through as many mediums as possible...write an article, give free workshops or seminars, have a user-friendly Website that helps you to build your email database, offer the local media 'news they can use', start a newsletter and give, give, give..try as many of the ideas in my book as you can.

Don't be afraid. Too many entrepreneurs think that selling to the widest possible market is the likeliest path to success. They are afraid to pursue a market niche because they fear they'll lose business by turning away customers. But just the opposite is true. You can do quite well by becoming a provider of products and services that can't be found anywhere else.

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